Published Date : May 10, 2002
In 1968, Dr. Hilda M. Fife, using the Vermont Old Cemetery Association (VOCA) as a model, saw a similar need to identify small, neglected cemeteries throughout the state of Maine. Sponsored by the Maine League of Historical Societies and Museums and the University of Maine’s Department of History, Dr. Fife chartered the Maine Old Cemetery Association (MOCA) as a non-profit organization. Initially, the primary purpose of MOCA was to locate old cemeteries in order to encourage their care and preservation, which would in turn aid in the preservation of historic information. Over the years MOCA has worked with scout troops, Masons, various historical societies, and other organizations to clean up deserted and neglected cemeteries as they are identified. They also inspire and motivate local efforts by town or city officials to assist in this endeavor by calling attention to cemeteries in disrepair through local media channels.
As the growth of MOCA began to accelerate, programs were developed to record the writings on tombstones in order to preserve their historical and genealogical interest. MOCA has taken on the herculean task of recording and documenting the inventory of every cemetery in the state, whether large and well known or small and well concealed. What an absolutely worthwhile goal!
It is refreshing that MOCA, in addition to recording the tombstone inscriptions, also gathers the dedicated volunteer resources necessary to accomplish this task. Once the inscriptions are recorded, the next step is to transfer the raw material into some form of permanent record and make it available to repositories in the towns of Maine and beyond. It is a vast undertaking, made even more difficult by the condition of the stones themselves. Some tombstones are hundreds of years old and are worn due to long exposure to the environment. Older tombstones that are not set properly become cracked and settle, or even disappear, beneath the soil.